UTS Vice-Chancellor promises to oppose fee deregulation if petition brought

March 13, 2015
Vice-Chancellor of University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Attila Brungs. Photo: Jesse Taylor Photography.

To date, Vice-Chancellor of University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Attila Brungs has supported Prime Minister Tony Abbott's fee deregulation legislation. Last year he said fee deregulation “could have some positive impacts” and result in “teaching quality going up”.

Arguing that it is positive that students finish their course with $100,000 debt is a hard sell, and Brungs felt the heat as students at UTS signed petitions calling on him to oppose it.

The Resistance Club at UTS presented Brungs with a petition signed by 400 students in October last year, calling on him “to speak out against the Federal government's deregulation of university fees and work to build opposition to deregulation of tertiary education”.

Brungs has now said he may oppose fee deregulation if 10% of the student body sign a petition opposing the legislation. The Students Association at UTS has drafted a petition and is campaigning to reach the target of 5000 students.

Raising the political stakes, the Higher Education and Research Amendment Bill — including fee-deregulation — passed the federal House of Representatives on February 25. The Abbott government is determined to get it through the next hurdle — the Senate — after backing down on the unpopular Medicare co-payment.

The university user-pays measure is also highly unpopular. A Fairfax Ipsos poll, quoted in a Sydney Morning Herald article on November 3, showed almost two-thirds of Australians opposed the changes. “Sixty-four per cent of respondents oppose deregulation,” the SMH said. “Among university graduates, opposition is even greater at 72 per cent. But opposition is greatest among TAFE or university students, with just 21 per cent in favour and 76 per cent against.”

To get the bill through the Senate, where it was defeated last year by one vote, Education Minister Christopher Pyne has offered recalcitrant independents a “sweetener”. Universities will be fined if they charge over an amount set by the government.

Brungs is on record as supporting the sweetener. The February 9 SMH said he had “backed an increased cap on fees”.

Jess Xu, secretary of the UTS Student Association, and its president Dean Mattar met with Brungs on February 24. Brungs said he was reviewing all the alternatives, and said "if he was given a petition numbering 10% of the student population, then he would come out against fee deregulation", Xu told Green Left Weekly.

Xu said: “In the meeting we asked Attila to speak out against fee deregulation at the students’ March 25 National Day of Action, and he responded with this petition request. So the Student Association has organised a campaign to get up to 5000 petitions signed. Lots of students are very supportive.”

Christian Goopy, Resistance Club President at University Technology Sydney, said: “We think there are at least 5000 students at UTS opposed to this horrific bill who will sign. The Resistance Club is committed to getting 2000 petitions signed by March 25, and has gathered 1000 already.”

[To help with the campaign call Christian on 0450 787 346 or visit the UTS Student Association on level 3 of UTS Tower Building.]

Like the article? Subscribe to Green Left now! You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.